There are many a punk band fronted by women. But few are Laura Jane Grace. There are many bands that write concept albums, but few are Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Many bands undergo change. Few were as massive as what hit Against Me!. In the past three years, Tom Gabel came out as a transgender woman, became Laura Jane Grace and is essentially playing with a whole new set of musicians. This was my first punk show of the year, and what a good one it was.
Grace’s story is as inspiring as anyone’s in the punk community. She struggled with gender dysphoria since childhood, but after marrying her second wife Heather, she was “committed to living as a man”. All that changed with the birth of their daughter. Everything was back. Tom Gabel ceased to be and the world was introduced to Laura. She was inspired to come out after meeting a transgender Against Me! fan. This is what I love about the punk community – some of the most open and accepting people on earth. Very DIY and a place where no one is turned away. As for the change, Grace says “However fierce our band was in the past, imagine me, six-foot-two, in heels, fucking screaming into someone’s face.” That’s a pretty accurate description.
The show was loud, it was fierce, it was angry. But it was also very introspective and reflective. With her song “Unconditional Love” Grace talks about how accepting the punk community was (she received support from such people as Mike Shinoda and Franz Nicolay), but also her wife and others at large. While the song FuckMyLife666 has a classic punk title, it’s lyrics are some of the most powerful I’ve come across. The song expresses Grace’s concerns about her relationship with Heather after coming out and is written to her. It starts off quite lovely with the verse
But by the end of the song it’s clear a change might be coming:
There are also more traditional punk songs such as “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” and “Paralytic States”. MY favourite though has to be the title track. It’s rapid-fire drum into, interspersed with Grace shouting “Hey” is reminiscent of classic “Ramones” and the speed of other early 80s punk bands, while infusing it with some of the modern stylings of a band like Green Day.
I want to go out and buy this album. I kind of wish I bought a shirt. (I don’t buy much band swag, especially as a poor theatre student). But this chick rocks.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues was released on January 21, 2014